Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wausau Priests try out new media

Catholic priests in central Wisconsin [Diocese of La Crosse] cautiously are entering the digital age, experimenting with social media to spread God's word over the Internet.

Steve Martin, the youth and family ministry director at St. Therese Catholic Church in Rothschild, isn't a priest, but he's taken it upon himself to reach out to the youth in his community through

Martin said the page allows him to befriend young people with connections to the church and stay in touch with others. It also allows youth members to talk about issues, such as a family death, with Martin without having to schedule a personal appointment.

"This is a way to get around their busy schedules," Martin said. "Kids are so plugged in that they'll check the site constantly.

"If there's a family problem or stress, it (Facebook) gives you a chance to be personally connected to their lives," he said.

Martin hit the Web even before Pope Benedict XVI's recent suggestion that priests across the world use new media, such as videos, blogs and Web sites, to reach out to their communities and spread the Gospel.

Many local priests acknowledge that technology will play a role in the church sooner rather than later.

"We've been talking about it for quite a while," said Bob Thorn, a priest at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Wausau. "It's a good way to reach the youth."

St. Matthew, like other Catholic churches in the Wausau area, has its own Web site, but it's designed to provide basic information about the church, such as Mass schedules, news bulletins and staff listings. The Web site does not provide videos, links to Facebook pages or blogs.

The Rev. Bill Grevatch, a priest at St. Michael Catholic Church and the Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, both in Wausau, said he sees the value in new media, but prefers to stick to what he knows and loves best -- personal, face-to-face communication.

"New media can be so impersonal," Grevatch said. "I prefer asking people questions in person and seeing the reaction in their eyes."

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